KC to implement free bus fare, the first city to do so

“We have changed the direction and changed the vision of transportation here in Kansas City.”


KCATA looks to launch ZeroFare KC in 2020

By Christina McDonough Hunt

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) will receive funding to implement ZeroFare by this summer or fall, making them the first transit agency to offer a zero fare.  Funding was approved Thursday, March 26, at the city council budget hearing. ZeroFare is a program that allows the KCATA to offer free bus transportation to everyone in the Kansas City, MO area.  

“We have changed the direction and changed the vision of transportation here in Kansas City,” KCATA President and CEO Robbie Makinen said at a South Kansas City Alliance meeting.  “Public transportation isn’t about steel, aluminum or asphalt, it’s about people. It’s our job to take care of people.”  

Robbie Makinen II (1)
Robbie Makinen, president of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, said at the March 9 meeting of the South Kansas City Alliance that implementing free bus fares in KCMO, as proposed in the city’s 2020-21 budget being considered by the City Council, would be a win-win solution by providing financial help to transit dependent workers while helping businesses attract adequate numbers of employees.

Makinen explained how offering free transportation opens opportunities for growth here in Kansas City.   

“Transportation is the thing that connects everything,” he said.  “Jobs, education, and school activities have no ZIP codes and it’s our job to get people to those opportunities”.   

So, why zerofare?  According to Makinen, if the average rider can save $1500 per year from bus fees, they are likely going to put that right back into the community by using it to purchase items such as bread, shoes, healthcare, and housing.  Free transportation offers access to doctor’s appointments, job interviews and jobs, and to stores such as grocery stores. These all help increase the quality of life for those who rely on Kansas City’s public transportation.  

Currently, over 20% of bus ridership is Zero Fare with the following programs:  Prospect MAX, Veterans Pass, Student Pass for high schools, free rides for furloughed government workers, and opportunity pass for Safety-Net Providers.  These programs account for over $3.1 million free rides per year.  

Will this ZeroFare KC program affect taxes?  Bus fares account for approximately $8 million per year.  According to the KCATA, that is less than 10% of their annual budget.  They plan to replace the $8 million through public-private partnerships.  

“We are getting the private sector involved,” Makinen said.  “When we can partner with companies and help them to be able to expand their employee opportunities by offering free transportation, we all have a better shot.  Also, if you have access to get a better job, you can better sustain it.”    

Makinen also wants everyone to know that the KCATA is not sacrificing service in order to have ZeroFare, nor are they having to cut programs in other areas to receive the funding. 

“Our service level is going to stay the same,”  explained Makinen. “All we are asking for is the 95% out of the transportation tax that we are supposed to get, but we’re going to get there.”

KCRide Next begins Phase 2 of transit service redesign

The RideKC Next project is a complete review and redesign of the RideKC bus transit service.  The project is being led by the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) in an effort to “make changes to the transit network that reflect the needs, priorities and values of people in KCMO communities.”  

The project is currently in Phase 2 of 3 phases.  Phase 1, which consisted of meeting with the community, conducting surveys, documenting feedback, and reviewing the existing transit service was completed in January 2020.  Phase 2 is underway and that includes sharing the plan with the community and obtaining additional feedback. Phase 3 looks to begin in late March with summarizing the final results of the surveys.  The final plan may adjust if needed based on public opinion. KCATA looks to implement their final redesign bus route plan in the fall of 2020. For a graphic, see SouthKCBusRoutes

In the South Kansas City area, bus routes that would be affected are as follows:


  • Route 63 would loop into Swope Park and would replace the Route 18 service to the zoo.  This route would run every 30 minutes.


  • Route 18 would include Indiana/Cleveland and would extend to 75th & Prospect. 
  • Route 75 would end at 75th & Prospect and would include the north-south and east-west service as an extension of Route 18.
  • Route 87 would run from Hickman Mills to 75th & Troost.  This route replaces the eastern half of Route 75.  
  • Route 40 would be a compilation of existing Routes 47, 51, 52, 55, and 57 and would run on Broadway, Ward Parkway and Wornall Rd.  



Details may be found on RideKCNext.org

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